Who Approves Your Project Change Requests?


Some organizations lack clarity about who approves the project change requests. On one project, the sponsor tells the project manager to make the decisions. On other projects, the sponsor makes the decisions. And yet, in other cases, senior management gets involved.

Who Approves Your Project Change Requests?
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Your project may morph into a two-headed monster without an integrated change control process, resulting in adverse impacts to schedule, cost, and scope. It’s critical that you define how change requests will be reviewed, approved or declined.

So, who should approve project change requests? There’s no one right answer.

Several variables should be considered when determining who will approve change requests such as:

  • Size of project
  • Complexity of project
  • Number of external parties
  • Contract requirements
  • Enterprise environmental factors

If your organization has a Project Management Office (PMO), consult this group for standards and change control processes. If not, you basically have three options.

Three Options for Approving Change Requests

  1. Project Sponsor. The project sponsor is typically a senior leader in an organization who has authority to make project decisions. The sponsor supports the team to ensure success. The sponsor has the perspective of how the project aligns and supports the organization’s mission, goals, and strategy.
  2. Project Manager. One of the most important roles of a project manager is to integrate all the facets of the project, including subject matter, project processes, and project knowledge areas. The benefit of using the project manager is their intimate knowledge of the project and project management.
  3. Change Control Board. Another option is to create a Change Control Board (CCB). This group often includes key stakeholders such as the project sponsor and other members of senior management. Some organizations have a Change Control Board that review change requests for all projects. Other organizations may have separate Change Control Boards for individual projects and programs.

How About a Hybrid Approach?

You may find it beneficial to use a hybrid approach that includes both the project sponsor and the project manager. One scenario would be that the project manager approves change requests except for certain situations. For example, the project sponsor is involved for the following:

  • When one or more change requests affect the schedule by two weeks or more
  • When one or more change requests increase project cost by 10% or more
  • Change requests that change the product specifications
  • Change requests from particular stakeholders

Who Should Approve Scrum Change Requests?

I find that most agile practitioners welcome change more than traditional project managers, even late in development. Whether you use an agile or traditional approach, you still need to define your change control process. Typically the Product Owner approves the change requests with input from key stakeholders. Change requests that impact active sprints are usually approved for implementation in a subsequent sprint.

What About Customer Approval?

If the project is being undertaken to create products and services for a customer, the customer will likely approve the change requests. One way to handle this situation is to include the customer on the Change Control Board. Another way is to have periodic steering team meetings where the senior leaders of the performing organization and the customer review and approve the project change requests together.

Question: What other ways have you seen organizations approve project change requests?

About the author 

Harry Hall

My name is Harry Hall and I'm the guy behind the projectriskcoach.com and the author of The Purpose Driven Project Manager. Risks can derail projects, resulting in challenged and sometimes failed projects. I make project risk management easy to understand and practical to apply, putting project managers in drivers seat.

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